Dancer Spotlight

Julian MacKay: From Montana to the Mikhailovsky—and Beyond

Photo by Gregory Bartadon via Instagram

Julian MacKay was born to be a pioneer. Growing up amid bison and hot springs in Montana, he developed a sense of adventure that came in handy when, at age 11, he entered the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

"It was this guinea-pig experiment," the Bozeman native remembers. "No American had ever gone so young." In 2015 he became the first American to graduate from the school with a full Russian diploma, having completed the lower and upper ballet division—at the top of his class—and passed all his academics in Russian, which he had learned to speak fluently within his first year.

Then in May 2016, MacKay became the youngest-ever soloist at the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. He soon debuted as the slave in Le Corsaire, the Bronze Idol in La Bayadère and James in La Sylphide, roles that showcased his clean technique and lofty jumps.


"I've had the opportunity to do so much, so quickly," says the appreciative MacKay, who at 19 feels a keen urgency. "The career is quite short. If you have things you want to achieve, you have to go for them as soon as possible."

MacKay got an early start in ballet, alongside his younger brother, Nicholas MacKay, and older sisters, Maria Sascha Khan and Nadia Khan, all of whom were dance-obsessed since childhood. MacKay received his early training in Montana, and following a bronze-medal win at Youth America Grand Prix, Bolshoi Academy teachers invited him to join the school. Before he went, he moved to San Diego to study with former Bolshoi dancer Maxim Tchernychev.

Photo by Stas Levshin

Russia was an opportunity MacKay couldn't pass up, daunting as it was to move halfway around the world to begin six years of extremely intense training. "I went through army boot-camp schooling," he says of the six-days-per-week program, which ranged from rigorous ballet technique to the Stanislavsky acting method.

MacKay's training helped him to win medals in Sochi, Istanbul, Paris and Beijing. The 2015 Prix de Lausanne, where he earned an apprentice scholarship to The Royal Ballet, helped define his goals. He took the apprenticeship, but as much as he admired the company and artistic director Kevin O'Hare, MacKay was not content in the corps.

At an audition in Hungary, Mikhailovsky director Mikhail Messerer offered MacKay a soloist position. MacKay was thrilled to return to Russia, where he's pursuing a Russian Ballet Master graduate degree while dancing. He also had his choreographic premiere with a new version of The Little Humpbacked Horse, at the Four Seasons St.Petersburg. It starred Nicholas, Maria Sascha and Nadia—all four siblings are currently dancing and training overseas.

MacKay's path is leading in non-dance directions, too. His charismatic good looks landed him a modeling contract with IMG and a photo shoot with Kendall Jenner for the avant-garde fashion magazine LOVE.

"I feel like I've won so many lottery tickets," he says. Luck plays a part in any career, but MacKay is forging his own path with talent, training and that adventurous spirit. "You can do anything," he says, "if you aspire to it and really push for it."

Fun Facts:
Russian food craving: Kholodets. "It's basically pieces of meat in Jell-O. It's pretty crazy, but kinda good."

Dream destinations: Siberia ("I want to see what it's like") and the South of France ("I love the beaches!")

Puppy love: "I'm teaching my French bulldog puppy, Leo, how to skateboard." Follow Leo @theatre_ dog on Instagram.

Videos
Rudolf Nureyev and Merle Park in "The Nutcracker" (1968). Photo by Donald Southern, Courtesy of the Royal Opera House Collections.

Given the thousands of incarnations The Nutcracker has undergone—from tiny-tot productions in small-town studios to grand modern classics—the ballet's Grand Pas de Deux from Act II has remained remarkably intact. With slight variations, most professional dancers have seen its familiar choreography at some point or another. Tchaikovsky's radiant score calls to mind elegant promenades, partnered penchées and slow, supported développés.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Richmond Ballet dancers show off two adoptable shelter dogs at its annual "Pupcracker." Photo courtesy Richmond Ballet

If you're looking to upstage Clara, there's no better way to do it than with a four-legged furry friend—especially when that furry friend is looking for its forever home. Cue Richmond Ballet: During its December 16 and 21 matinees, the company is teaming up with the Richmond SPCA to present the "Pupcracker," special Nutcracker performances featuring adoptable shelter dogs. Several pups make their stage debut during the party scene as the guests bring their family pets to and from the Silberhaus home. Audience members can then meet—and adopt—the dogs during intermission and after the performance. The SPCA even provides a crate, collar, leash and treats so that patrons can bring their new family members home after the show.


Audience members can meet and adopt featured dogs during intermission. Photo Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Artistic director Stoner Winslett first reached out to SPCA CEO Robin Starr, a former Richmond Ballet board president and current trustee emerita, about partnering up seven years ago. Since then the company has presented 17 "Pupcracker" performances, resulting in 34 adoptions. "I think 'Pupcracker' has been very successful not only in getting dogs adopted on site, but also in raising awareness about shelter pets," says Winslett, who has rescued five dogs herself from the SPCA over the years.


Artistic director Stoner Winslett (far right) with Richmond Ballet dancers and an adoptable dog. Photo courtesy Richmond Ballet

Richmond Ballet isn't the only company partnering up with local animal shelters. Fort Wayne Ballet and Sacramento Ballet host similar adoption events during their Nutcracker productions. We really hope this trend catches on!

Photo by Taylor-Ferné Morris.

I have flatter feet and want to make them look better on pointe. Are there any special pointe shoes for my foot type? —Joana

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Photo by Kyle Froman

Peek inside Devon Teuscher's pointe shoes and you'll see a discreetly placed number. "I want to see how many shoes I go through in a year," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. "Last year it was close to 200 pairs." Teuscher keeps a Sharpie handy for this season's count in a small pouch containing other shoe accessories like ribbons and elastics. It's one of a handful of carefully organized pouches stored in her red mesh bag. "I'm definitely not a pack rat," she says of her no-frills style. Teuscher's bag came from Ascot + Hart, a California boutique that her sister introduced her to. "I love that it's breathable and lightweight and it can pack quite a bit. It's also easy to wash."

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

As the investigation into claims of sexual harassment by New York City Ballet ballet master in chief Peter Martins remains under wraps, more dancers are speaking publicly on the matter. And while many allegations are decades old, dancers with recent and current ties to the company are becoming more vocal.

Yesterday, Kathryn Morgan—a former NYCB soloist with a hugely popular YouTube channel and an advice column in Dance Spirit—posted a candid video addressing questions she's received about the scandal. Although Morgan left the company in 2012, her post sheds light on the mixed emotions that current NYCB dancers may be feeling right now. "This is an issue that NEEDS to be discussed," she writes in the comments section. "And I appreciate that you all understand I am in no way defending him. I just wanted to give you my honest and true experience with dealing and working with Peter."



Keep reading... Show less
Videos
Leo toe pads. Photo Courtesy Dance Retailer News.

There are a ton of different kinds of toe pads out there, and even more opinions about them. It's all about finding the perfect balance between control and comfort. Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop reviews five different types of pointe shoe toe pads.


Everything Nutcracker
Texas Ballet Theater's Brett Young as Edward Scissorhands in "The Nutty Nutcracker." Photo by Steven Visneau, Courtesy Texas Ballet Theater.

On December 15, Texas Ballet Theater will set aside its familiar Nutcracker costumes, variations and sets for their one-night-only performance of The Nutty Nutcracker. A satirical take on the classic story, The Nutty Nutcracker combines the most riotous in current pop culture and politics with Tchaikovsky's well-worn refrains.

TBT dancers portray Elsa and Olaf in the snow scene of the Nutty Nut in 2015. Photo by Ellen Appel, Courtesy TBT.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!